Banner Viadrina

Masterstudiengang Literaturwissenschaften


Literary Studies at Viadrina

 The Frankfurt Model:

Literary Studies

Aesthetics Literature Philosophy



I. Preamble: Literary Hermeneutics from the Perspective of Cultural Theory

Cultural Theory as Starting Point for Frankfurt Literary Studies


II. Conception: European Model of the Reception and Interaction of Literature, Philosophy, and Art

The Cultural-Theoretical Function of Frankfurt Literary Studies


III. Master’s Program in  Literary Studies

“Literary Hermeneutics from the Perspective of Cultural Theory”


 I. Preamble: Literary Hermeneutics from the Perspective of Cultural Theory


Cultural Theory as Starting Point for Frankfurt Literary Studies

Among the requirements from the Konstanz-reforms taken up by the academic committee at the founding of the Europa-Universität was the requirement that Literary Studies as such, rather than various nationally divided philologies, would be institutionalized. A special feature of this arrangement was that the separation of Eastern and Western European literature would allow the discipline conventionally referred to as “Slavistic” to continue, while the adjective “Western European” would serve as an abbreviation for literatures in Western European languages. The role of literary studies was meant to be a primarily methodological one; according to this Frankfurt model, literary hermeneutics would serve, more precisely, as the leading edge of cultural theory.

         The Heinrich-von-Kleist-Institute for Literature and Politics serves this purpose as an Institute for research into the foundations of cultural theory. It is able to draw on a remarkable poetological tradition, in which the new Viadrina links up with the old Viadrina, extending from Opitz (1624) via Baumgarten (1750) and Solger (1807), up through Hegel’s aesthetics. The Kleist Institute bears the imprint of the German Research Foundation (DFG) funded graduate collegium [Graduiertenkolleg] that it houses: Representation Rhetoric Knowledge (1996-2006) and its successor Forms of Life and the Know-how of Living (since 2005), which together have undertaken historico-critical work on the foundational concepts of the new cultural theory, at once taking the historical givens of the old trivium as an object of study – ‘represententation,’ understood in both rhetorical and epistemological terms – and developing a series of new concepts, namely those pertaining to the ‘know-how of life’ [Lebenswissen]. Through this work on foundational concepts, literary studies establishes its function within cultural analysis as a philosophical one. The fundamental theoretical orientation of Literary Studies at the Viadrina is directed towards the objects of literature and philosophy in their cultural-theoretical intertwinedness as well as in their successive transdisciplinary research formations, as seen historically and theoretically. 


In distinction from the disciplinary formations of the old philologies (German, English, Romance Languages, Slavistics) the cultural theory approach to Literary Studies at Viadrina assumes the full transdisciplinary burden of the new cultural theoretical orientation within the integration of disciplines previously organized by national tradition. The thoroughly new orientation is carried out through a European model of reception and interaction within the disciplines of literature, philosophy, and art history; in accordance with the goals of the academic committee, this model has been implemented with great success in the DFG graduate collegium, with its effects in the realm of research by younger scholars extending far beyond Frankfurt.

The substitution of a (geopolitical) division between Eastern and Western European literatures for the old set of philological specializations makes reference to a pertinent obligation that arises from Frankfurt Oder’s own situatedness at the border; this is done in the interest not only of registering the particularity of the literary and philosophical discourses that have taken shape in Eastern Europe, but also of taking up the resulting problems of cultural translation within the broader theoretical frame.


II. Conception: A European Model of the Reception and Interaction of Literature and Philosophy and Art


The Cultural-Theoretical Function of Frankfurt Literary Studies


The methodological, broadly cultural-theoretical reach of Literary Studies in Frankfurt exceeds the conventional interests of literary studies in two regards in particular: it serves as (1) the exemplary introduction for bachelor’s level study; it serves as (2) the methodological deepening and continuation of the master’s level study in the postgraduate realm. Furthermore, (3) the master’s studies of literature offer European literature, philosophy, and art as a context of reception and of interaction since the Middle Ages. Within this frame, literature, in its exemplarily introductory and methodologically enriching roles, develops into an intradisciplinary object referring to the historical frames of literature, art, philosophy and their respective disciplinary inheritances.  


In particular, the methodological second part of the program, after the acquisition of the master’s degree, incorporates and adapts the most up to date international discussions of literary theory. Besides the introductory role for Literary Studies within the bachelor’s and master’s level Cultural Theory program, Literary Studies has a focusing function for graduate studies that is of a general, synergistic importance. Further, the master’s program is designed as an instrument in the interest of research, enabling rapid progress for junior scholars as they move through graduate studies and the dissertation. It responds to the pressing question of the quality of work produced by those trained in cultural theory by creating preconditions for advanced research early in the program of study. In addition to the example-driven general introduction in cultural theory and regularly accompanying lectures on the canon, Literary Studies at Frankfurt has therefore since its inception operated a research-intensive DFG graduate collegium, which is now, after an initial twelve-year run, continuing in a second phase; in the meantime, the Viadrina model of cultural theory, distinguished by its philosophical and literary theoretical orientation, has caught on as its own internationally recognized style of theory.  


Frankfurt Literary Studies maintains formal ties with a network of comparable programs and instititutions, including those in New York (NYU Poetics & Theory), Amsterdam (Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis), and Paris (École des Hautes Études en Sciènces sociales und Institut Catholique de Paris), thus enabling the cultural theoretical approach of Frankfurt Literary Studies to keep up with the most advanced contemporary research not only in literary studies and art-history but in a host of related disciplines as well. Cooperation in research and teaching with literary scholars from Polish partner-universities Poznań, Wrocław, and the Collegium Polonicum adds an Eastern European perspective to Frankfurt Literary Studies.


III. Master’s Program in Literary Studies (Frankfurt Model)


“Literary Hermeneutics in Cultural-Theoretical Perspective”


The objects of study are Western and Eastern European literatures as the institutionalized variants of Frankfurt Literary Studies, overlapping in essence with the cultural-theoretical components of the program.


Fundamental traits of the Frankfurt Master’s degree in Literary Studies are:

 (1) the combination of three of the basic modern languages of Western and Eastern European literatures, including native language and including the option of ancient languages;

(2) the integration of linguistic mastery at the literary level, including translation, in work in each module;

(3) the broadening of the literary canon through philosophy and art-history, including history of science and epistemology;

(4) the research-focused orientation of graduate study, with an emphasis on regular individual advising and individually advised individual research for credit, through which the master’s level work functions as preparatory work for the dissertation.


The expertise acquired in the Literary Studies master’s program qualifies the students for an academic career as well as for work in literary publishing, media, and public and private cultural institutions. This preparation can serve as the essential basis either for a literary or art-historical dissertation or for work outside the academy.